November 24, 2014
When you think of someone being charged for driving under the influence (DUI), you probably imagine them behind the wheel of a car. However, under Florida law, a person may be charged with DUI even if they are not driving a car. In fact, any mode of transportation that uses public streets is considered a vehicle, and “driving” includes operating a bicycle, so a person using a bicycle while intoxicated can absolutely be charged with DUI when the facts warrant it.
Under Florida law, blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 or higher is considered intoxicated. Furthermore, for an average person, as little as two drinks in a single hour can raise their BAC to this level. Therefore, if you choose to indulge in more than two drinks per hour, you should wait until your body has had time to process the alcohol out of your system before operating any vehicle, including a bicycle.
If you ignore a high BAC and ride a bicycle while intoxicated, it may result in a DUI charge that has consequences similar to those for operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated. If you are involved in an accident during an intoxicated ride, such consequences may increase. In fact, an intoxicated cyclist who causes an accident may have the same legal liability as an intoxicated driver would. This may include having to pay for medical expenses and property damage of any injured parties. Unfortunately, many cyclists, especially those who do not own another vehicle, do not carry the appropriate insurance that could help cover the damages of potential victims.
The Dangers of Cycling While Intoxicated
When a person drinks, they lose many of the normal inhibitors that typically prevent them from making poor decisions. Even so, drinking and biking might seem less risky than driving while intoxicated. After all, a bicycle travels at a much lower rate of speed than a car, and causes less damage than a motor vehicle would if it happens to impact something or someone. However, cycling while intoxicated still poses several dangers to yourself and others, and you should consider more than the potential legal consequences, including:
- Intoxicated riders may take unsafe chances. Cyclists who are intoxicated may attempt to do things that they would never do while sober, such as ignoring traffic signals, wearing inappropriate clothing (like dark clothes at night), or riding without a helmet. They may forgo normal safety precautions, or erroneously believe other drivers see them. An intoxicated cyclist might also be more likely to attempt dangerous stunts, or try to “make it” through an intersection, even though they will not have enough time before other vehicles will enter that same intersection.
- Intoxicated riders become less observant. They might not notice a light about to turn red, hazards on the road, a pedestrian, or a car passing through an intersection, and missing critically important details such as these can substantially increase the risk for an accident.
- Intoxicated riders lose their ability to maneuver their bicycles. Cycling requires both fine and gross motor skills, all of which can deteriorate when a person becomes intoxicated. Maneuvering a bicycle is therefore much more difficult, and an intoxicated rider is much more likely to fail to operate it correctly. Intoxicated riders may lose their balance, struggle to steer, or have trouble negotiating hazards in the road. In fact, safely riding a bicycle while intoxicated may actually be more difficult than driving a car or other vehicle.
- Biking under the influence can cause serious accidents with other vehicles. Intoxicated cyclists often behave unpredictably. As a result, drivers cannot really determine what an intoxicated cyclist on the road will do next. When drivers attempt to avoid drunk cyclists, or fail to do so, larger accidents with more serious injuries can occur.
Imagine you have gone for an afternoon ride on your bicycle, or maybe you used it to get to a bar and grill restaurant to meet friends. Perhaps you were not intending to drink when you left home with your bicycle as your mode of transportation, but an opportunity arose and you’ve since consumed a few beers or glasses of wine. Now what?
- Call for a ride. Many ridesharing services, including Uber and Lyft, offer vehicles large enough for you to take your bicycle with you. These vehicles offer a much safer alternative to trying to ride home after drinking. You may also be able to call a taxi, depending on your location.
- Wait until your body has time to process the alcohol. In general, it takes approximately one hour per drink to process alcohol to the point that you can safely drive or ride your bicycle.
- Leave your bike and pick it up later. Your bicycle was likely an expensive investment, and you may not want to leave it just anywhere. However, if you have a safe way to get home but can’t take your bike with you, secure your bike in a safe location and make arrangements to pick it up later.
- Plan your way home before you start drinking. Before you go somewhere you may be drinking, take the time to plan how you will get home, and how you will get your bicycle home if you choose to use it to get to your destination. Whether you need a designated driver, or you intend to call a rideshare service or taxi, if you have a plan before you go out, it will be easier to implement even after you’ve been consuming alcohol.
Do You Need a Lawyer After an Accident With a Drunk Cyclist?
Were you charged for riding a bicycle while under the influence? If so, please speak to our experienced criminal defense lawyers. The attorneys at Khonsari Law Group are committed to effectively advocating for our clients, and ensuring they get the best possible outcomes in their cases. Contact Khonsari Law Group today at (727) 269-5300 or online to schedule your free consultation and learn if we may help you.